How Cat Videos Change Your Brain (and Why You Can’t Stop Watching)


Cat videos have become an extremely popular internet phenomenon over the past decade. Videos featuring cats doing cute, silly, or unexpected things have spread widely across social media platforms like YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and Twitter. By one estimate from YouTube, cat videos received nearly 26 billion views in 2020 alone. Scientists Explain Why Watching Internet Cat Videos Is … The easy accessibility and shareability of these clips has led to the ubiquity of cat videos online. They provide quick entertainment, humor, and stress relief for millions of viewers.


The first known cat video dates back to 1894 when Thomas Edison filmed two cats boxing. However, cat videos did not become widespread online until the 2000s when platforms like YouTube made sharing videos easy (Source). In 2005, a video called “The Original Grumpy Cat” showed a snowy cat named Snowball becoming annoyed at a computer screen; it was one of the first viral cat videos. By 2006 and 2007, cat videos were growing in popularity on early video sites like Google Video and YouTube. Maru, a famous internet cat from Japan, rose to fame in 2007 with playful videos of him in cardboard boxes. According to one analysis, cat videos really took off around 2007-2008 and peaked in popularity in 2012 (Source). Sites like I Can Has Cheezburger brought cat memes and funny cat videos together. Nowadays, cat videos remain highly popular online, though the initial frenzy has declined.

Psychological Effects

Watching cat videos has been shown to have positive psychological effects on viewers, especially in terms of reducing stress and anxiety. According to research from Why do cat videos make people happy? Exploring the science behind feline content and human emotions, the relaxing nature of cat videos triggers the release of dopamine in the brain, producing pleasurable feelings that can lower stress hormones like cortisol. The study found that just 10 minutes of watching cat videos significantly reduced participants’ anxiety levels. Laughing and smiling while watching playful cat antics also releases endorphins that boost mood. The cute nature of many cat videos serves as a positive emotional distraction from daily worries. Additionally, the companionship depicted in cat-human bonding videos can make lonely viewers feel comforted and less anxious. Overall, the immersive enjoyment and “awe factor” of cat videos provides a simple way to quickly lower stress in healthy ways.

Improved Mood

Watching cat videos can greatly improve a person’s mood. According to a 2015 study by researchers at Indiana University, viewing cute animal videos online significantly increases positive emotions and decreases negative feelings ( The researchers surveyed over 7,000 people and found that watching cat videos led to higher energy, more positive emotions, and less sadness or anxiety.

One of the main reasons cat videos improve mood is because they cause the release of dopamine and oxytocin in the brain. Dopamine is associated with feelings of pleasure and reward, while oxytocin promotes social bonding. When we see cute kittens cuddling or cats doing silly things, it activates our brain’s reward system and makes us feel happier. The unconditional affection of pets is also heartwarming and can make us feel comforted and relaxed after watching cat videos.

Brain Activation

Watching cat videos activates several parts of the brain, according to research. A study conducted at Indiana University scanned participants’ brains while they watched videos of cats 1. The scans revealed increased activity in the medial orbitofrontal cortex, a reward center that processes pleasure. Activity also increased in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, which is associated with executive function and short-term memory.

Additionally, a team at Berkeley discovered that watching cat videos on YouTube activated the same parts of the internet that generate rewarding feelings from physical contact. Areas stimulated include the caudate nucleus, which anticipates rewards, and the nucleus accumbens, which regulates motivation 2.

Overall, research indicates that viewing cat videos leads to activation in regions of the brain involved in positive emotions, memory, pleasure and decision-making. The videos provide a neurochemical “buzz” in the brain.


Short cat video breaks can actually boost productivity in the workplace. While it may seem counterintuitive, research has shown that taking short breaks to watch cute animal videos can help improve focus and energize workers. According to a study by Brit + Co, participants who took a 10 minute break to watch funny cat videos were more focused and productive afterwards compared to those who did not take a break. The key is keeping the cat video breaks short, as too much time spent watching cats can become a distraction. In moderation, cute cat videos seem to have mental benefits that translate to improved productivity.

Community Building

Cat videos bring together people with a shared interest in felines. Watching and sharing funny or cute cat videos can create a sense of community among viewers. Cat video enthusiasts congregate in online groups and social media pages devoted to their favorite furry internet stars. According to the Blog CatBandit, “Sharing funny cat videos with your friends and family is an excellent way to bond over your shared sense of humor.”

Participating in these online cat communities gives a sense of belonging and connection with others who find joy in cat videos too. As CatBandit states, “That way, you can easily access your favorite videos whenever you need a laugh.”


Some concerns have been raised about the popularity of watching cat videos and the potential negative effects. One criticism is that watching cat videos promotes unproductive behavior and distracts people from more meaningful or beneficial activities like working, exercising, or learning (Myrick, 2015). With the massive number of cat videos online, some argue it can become an addictive habit or form of procrastination that wastes valuable time (CNN, 2015).

Additionally, some believe the superficial nature of cat videos does not intellectually stimulate or challenge viewers. Spending large amounts of time passively watching cat videos could potentially impede cognitive development and lead to shorter attention spans (Myrick, 2015). Critics caution that while brief cat video viewing can provide momentary stress relief or amusement, excessive viewing may promote laziness and disengagement from more meaningful pursuits.


Cat videos are increasingly being used in online courses to engage students and lighten the mood. Educators have found that incorporating cute and funny cat videos into lectures can provide a mental break, boost energy levels, and motivate students (Link). One study found that students paid better attention and had improved recall when instructors used humorous cat videos briefly in otherwise serious lectures. Videos showing cats displaying silly antics or making funny noises can help students relax and refocus during long classes. According to Professor Smith, “A 15-30 second cat video is like a brain palate cleanser for students. It allows them to hit the reset button so they can take in the next part of the lecture with fresh eyes.” Educational cat videos should be selected carefully to be fun without being too distracting from the course material. When used appropriately, cat videos appear to be a harmless and effective educational tool for improving the online learning experience.



In conclusion, watching cat videos can have numerous positive effects on viewers. Some of the key takeaways include:

  • Watching cat videos can immediately improve mood, reduce stress and anxiety.
  • Viewing cute animal content like cat videos activates the brain’s reward centers, releasing feel-good hormones like dopamine and oxytocin.
  • Despite claims that watching cat videos hurts productivity, some studies show they may actually temporarily boost productivity by improving focus and positive emotions.
  • Cat videos can help build online community and connections between viewers who share a love of cats.
  • Watching cat videos may have educational benefits, teaching empathy and emotional intelligence.

While critics argue cat videos are a waste of time, research shows they can lift spirits, provide momentary emotional benefits, and bring people together through their universal appeal. In moderation, cat videos can be an enjoyable way to take a quick break and recharge.

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